A satellite image taken by a Japanese weather satellite shows the eruption Saturday.(Japan Meteorology Agency via AP)

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A massive underwater volcano erupted near Tonga on Saturday, sending shockwaves and tsunamis around the globe. The eruption, viewed from space by satellites flying over the region, was violent and enormous, with a smoke and ash plume rapidly expanding across the region. The airwaves created by the eruption are so powerful they can be clearly seen spreading out through the atmosphere on satellite imagery.

The volcano, known as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, is located about 40 miles away from Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu, about 3,100 miles southwest of Hawaii and 1,500 miles north of New Zealand. The sound of the eruption could be heard several hundred miles away in Fiji, and the eruption immediately triggered tsunami warnings on both sides of the Pacific. 

The internet and power has been cut in Tonga so little information is available on damage, but initial video showed a tsunami as big as four feet flooding onto the island.

Tsunami waves did come ashore on the United States’ West Coast on Sunday morning, although they were relatively minor. 

Scientists in New Zealand who have studied the volcano say that the type of ash and magma coming from the eruption is less toxic than other kinds, but predicted that the main Tongan island will likely be completely covered in a coating of ash. Some news reports described residents of the island having breathing problems. 

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Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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